Trends in mild, moderate, and severe stunting and underweight, and progress towards MDG 1 in 141 developing countries: a systematic analysis of population representative data

This paper looks at child anthropometric data on a country by country basis and aimed to estimate trends in the distributions of children’s anthropometric status and assess progress towards MDG 1. The data was collated from population-representative data on height and weight-for-age Z score, from health and nutrition surveys, summary statistics from the WHO Global Database on Child Growth and Malnutrition, and summary statistics from reports of other national and international agencies.

The results show that in developing countries, prevalence of moderate-and-severe stunting declined from 47·2% to 29·9 per cent and underweight from 30·1 to 19·4 per cent. The largest absolute improvements were in Asia and the largest relative reductions in prevalence in southern and tropical Latin America. Anthropometric status worsened in sub-Saharan Africa until the late 1990s and improved thereafter. In 2011, 314 million children under 5 years were mildly, moderately, or severely stunted and 258 million were mildly, moderately, or severely underweight.

The authors conclude that developing countries as a whole have less than a 5 per cent chance of meeting the MDG 1 target; but 61 of these 141 countries have a 50–100 per cent chance.

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